Although it looks like the BCS is pretty much settled -- either No. 1 Florida or No. 2 Alabama will play No. 3 Texas -- there is still plenty of conference business to settle.
Possibly one of the biggest games in Mountain West Conference history is on tap Saturday as No. 4
hosts No. 16
. The Horned Frogs supplanted
at No. 4 this week and still have longshot dreams of a BCS title berth. The Utes, who finished No. 2 last season, have lost only one game, 31-24, to
Over in Columbus, Ohio, the never-out-of-Big Ten-fashion
Ohio State Buckeyes
, ranked 11th, are looking to make a horror story out of No. 10
recently tarnished, fantastic season. The Hawkeyes, having averted disaster in just about every game they've played this season, ran out of luck at home against
last week. The winner of this Big Ten tilt will wear the conference crown.
Enough with the pleasantries, let's get to the Corner's menu this week.
-- William Hennelly
No. 25 West Virginia (7-2) at No. 5 Cincinnati (9-0), Friday , ESPN2, 8 p.m. EST
: Can the Bearcats run the table in the Big East? They have a couple of tough customers coming up, after having escaped
, 47-45, last Saturday night at home and dropping a spot in the polls. Pollsters probably didn't like that defensive effort from a national championship-contending team. But Cincy still can have an incredible season if it takes care of its own business.
Noel Devine, West Virginia
Quarterback Tony Pike will return to the team after going out a month ago with a wrist injury. But his fill-in, Zach Collaros, not only has shown a slingshot arm, he also runs like a deer and gives Cincy's offense more dimension. Collaros will start. The Mountaineers are always dangerous and can strike from anywhere on the field with quarterback Jarrett Brown and halfback Noel Devine.
Corner's choice: Cincinnati 35, West Virginia 28
-- William Hennelly
No. 14 Utah (8-1) at No. 4 TCU (9-0), 7:30 p.m. EDT
: Who knew a small private school in Fort Worth, Texas, would have so much influence over the college football season. TCU has long been a quaint, defensive-oriented, Mountain West powerhouse. But Saturday presents an all-together different affair.
Forget a mere BCS-busting bowl bid.
TCU's opponent this weekend, Utah, is best known as one of the few of the college football outsiders to bust the BCS monopoly.
It's such an important game that Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth is sold out for the first time in more than three years.
The BCS isn't the only list where the Horned Frogs share the spotlight with the nation's elite. TCU ranks third in the country in total defense. All-American defensive end and Lombardi Trophy finalist Jerry Hughes headlines the group with nine sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss on the season.
Jerry Hughes of TCU
But the Utes are coming off a season-high performance, logging 45 points and 557 yards of total offense, against
. More surprisingly, the game marked the first career start for freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn, who finished with nearly 300 yards passing and two touchdowns.
But while TCU has sported great defenses in past years, it's this year's offensive production that has led the Horned Frogs to its lofty ranking. It's the same offense that's cranked out at least 400 yards in its last four outings.
Another good sign is that quarterback Andy Dalton has steadily improved his play as the season has worn on. Against
San Diego State
last week, he notched a 203.38 passer rating, threw for 239 yards, completed 70% of his passes and threw for two touchdowns. And for good measure, he ran in two scores.
If stability at quarterback is going to be the difference, and with Utah's freshman QB facing one of the nation's best pass rushers, it's the Horned Frogs' game to win.
Corner's choice: TCU 45, Utah 13
No. 10 Iowa at No. 11 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC
: Iowa not only is coping with the letdown of a deflating loss to
, it lost leader and quarterback Ricky Stanzi to injury. Now the Hawkeyes must collect themselves for a trip to the ancient Horseshoe and try to pull off another big road win. They've done it in State College and in East Lansing. The Buckeyes' quarterback Terrelle Pryor is hitting his stride, and now there are fewer doubts that he is a good fit under center. Pryor was in charge in last week's victory at
. The key on Saturday afternoon is can the Iowa defense shut down Ohio State in hostile territory. The head says Ohio State prevails but the gut says the Hawkeyes pull it off.
Corner's choice: Iowa 17, Ohio State 16
-- William Hennelly
No. 2 Alabama (9-0) at Mississippi State (4-5), 7 p.m. EDT, ESPN
: The newly minted winner of the SEC's West Division will travel to Starkville, Miss., Saturday night, but the goal won't be to make a deal with the devil. Instead, the Alabama Crimson Tide will strive to avoid what every sportswriter writing about the matchup will likely describe, in some variation of the phrase, as a "classic trap game." (Oh, dear. The Corner has gone and done it, too.)
Looming on the horizon for Alabama, of course, is not only the SEC title game vs. the Gators, but also its regular-season-ending, blood-feud clash with arch-enemy
in Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl.
'Bama, of course, has just come off a tough victory in a surprisingly high-scoring (24-15) affair against
. Rapidly maturing rookie quarterback Greg McElroy took a major step forward last week, throwing for 276 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his finest outing yet as Alabama's signal-caller.
What's at stake this Saturday for McElroy and his crew? Well, nearly everything. Should Alabama stumble against Mississippi State, the Tide can likely kiss goodbye any chance of adding further national championship crystal to the university's already stocked trophy case.
Every college fan knows about Mark Ingram, the Heisman-contending 'Bama tailback, as well as the swarming, bruising, squelching Tide defense, led by the monstrous nose guard with the aptly metaphorical nickname, Terrence "Mount" Cody.
Less well-known is what Mississippi State has to offer. The Bulldogs have a surprisingly lethal rushing offense that has amassed 219 yards per game this season, good for No. 12 nationally. (Alabama, for its part, owns the 14-best ground attack in the land when judged by sheer yardage). State's star running back Anthony Dixon has shouldered the burden; he's second in the SEC in yards per game, behind only Ingram.
Less excellently, the Bulldogs have struggled throwing the ball, ranking 106th through the air. Still, the team has played competitive football against the four ranked opponents it's locked horns with this season, including, most memorably, Florida, a game that remained tied until the fourth quarter. Moreover, the Bulldogs have won two out of the last three to Alabama.
One has to believe that Nick Saban will have his troops ready to handle the Bulldogs, however. And, in the end, Mississippi State's defense (a somewhat vulnerable lot, surrendering almost 25 points per game) won't contain the Crimson Tide weaponry of McElroy, Ingram and wide-out Julio Jones -- barring a rash of trap-game-induced (or Delta-hoodoo-induced) turnovers, that is.
Corner's choice: Alabama 31, Mississippi State 17
-- Scott Eden
(7-2) probably wishes it played the kind of defense it did last night earlier in the season, particularly when it was dismantled by Cincinnati in the teams' opener. The Scarlet Knights smothered No. 23
offense in a 31-0 romp in Piscataway. A 10-2 season isn't implausible for Coach Greg Schiano's team -- the same record his club had in its breakout year of 2006. The Knights will probably find themselves in somebody's top 25 next week. ... There's a big one brewing in Worcester, Mass., this weekend as
(8-1) with the Patriot League title on the line. H.C. quarterback Dominic Randolph is on the NFL's radar, and his counterpart for the Leopards, Rob Curley, chucked a league record-tying seven TD passes in a win over
last week. The Crusaders are No. 14 in the FCS (formerly Div. 1-AA) coaches poll (Lafayette is 20th) and looking to make the NCAA playoffs for the first time since '83, back when onetime rival
had someone named Doug Flutie filling the air with footballs.
-- William Hennelly
The Corner is written by Scott Eden, Sung Moss and William Hennelly in New York's Canyon of Heroes
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This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.com.